Mousavian: Iranian officials hid things from Iranian nuclear negotiators

It’s in a book review that AL-Monitor correspondent Barbara Slavin reports that Sayed Hussein Mousavian claims that Iranian officials hid certain things from Iranian nuclear negotiators.

Mousavian’s account is almost too easy an excuse — “we didn’t know”.

Mousavian appears to blame Iranian officials for hiding these significant developments from Iranian negotiators. But, even after Iranian nuclear negotiators [such as himself] became aware of these hidden facts, they appeared to continue to exhibit an excess of trust, and did not seem to press any demands for full disclosure.

And, the question naturally arises: why didn’t Mousavian say so earlier? He was under suspicion in Iran, he was imprisoned and once faced trial. But he was later able to leave for the U.S., and has been there for several years, teaching [and writing his book] at Princeton — during which time he could have mentioned this — he could have even simply given hints.

It has been assumed, at least until now, that despite the mutual disaffection between Mousavian and the current regime, that he was somehow serving as a conduit for discrete U.S.-Iranian contacts.

According to Slavin, Mousavian says in his newly-published book that “Iranian negotiators did not know that Iran had obtained from Pakistan drawings for advanced centrifuges knowns as P2s, along with less sensitive technology. ‘Once again, Iran was acknowledging facts after they had been discovered by others’, Mousavian writes of what happened after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) revealed the P2 drawings. ‘I more than once heard important news for the first time from IAEA officials or from foreign media and then had to work on reformulating plans to manage the crises that the news gave rise to’.” This is reported in Slavin’s review of Mousavian’s book [Iranian Nuclear Crisis: a Memoir], published on AL-Monitor, here.

Slavin writes that Mousavian says in his book that he only learned of the deep-underground uranium enrichment facility at Ferdow, near Qum, when President Obama mentioned it at a news conference in 2009 [though I think this revelation was in Obama’s speech before the UN General Assembly — not during a news conference].

IAEA passes "mild" resolution after its toughest report yet on Iran, UNGA denounces assassination plot

The IAEA has passed what appears to be a mild resolution in response to its toughest report yet about Iran’s nuclear program.

The IAEA report suggested that there was no way to understand parts of Iran’s nuclear research other than to believe there was an aim to study how a nuclear weapon might be developed.

The IAEA 35-member Board of Governors adopted the resolution — which expressed “deep and increasing concern about the unresolved issues regarding the Iranian nuclear program, including those which need to be clarified to exclude the existence of possible military dimensions” — on Friday 18 November.

The resolution also expressed the Board’s “continuing support for a diplomatic solution”. It called on Iran to implement an additional IAEA inspection protocol which is purely voluntary for other countries — Iran has been ordered to do so by a series of resolutions in the UN Security Council.

And the IAEA Board resolution also called on Iran “to engage seriously and without preconditions in talks aimed at restoring international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program, while respecting the legitimate right to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy consistent with the NPT”.

According to a report in the New York Times, “the global powers meeting in Vienna criticized Tehran on Friday over suspicions that it is building a nuclear weapon. The rebuke, however, fell far short of threatening further pressure or actions to curb Iran’s contentious uranium enrichment program”. This was attributed in part to objections from Russia and China. The NYTimes article can be read in full here.

The NYTimes report added that the Iranian representative to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, “accused the nuclear agency of endangering the lives of Iranian scientists by releasing their names in an annex to last week’s report about the suspicions of nuclear weapons work. ‘The release of the names of the Iranian nuclear scientists by the agency has made them targets for assassination by terrorist groups as well as the Israeli regime and the U.S. intelligence services’, he said in a letter to the body’s director general, Yukiya Amano. Parts of the letter were published by Iran’s state-financed Press TV satellite broadcaster, which noted that several Iranian nuclear scientists had been killed in episodes attributed by Iran to Israeli, British and American intelligence services. Mr. Soltanieh contended that disclosing the names of Iranian experts represented a violation of the agency’s rules and said Tehran reserved the right to seek damages from the agency for any harm to its personnel or property as a result of the report — a possible reference to Tehran’s frequently voiced fears of an Israeli military strike on its nuclear facilities”….

In a separate, but possibly related, matter, the U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is due to meet Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Canada on the sidelines of a larger meeting.

Apparently, Ambassador Soltanieh said that as a result of today’s vote, Iran had decided not to attend an upcoming IAEA meeting on establishing a nuclear-weapons-free-zone in the Middle East.

The publication of the IAEA report [which was leaked to the press within minutes of its distribution to the Board of Governors] has also been criticized by Seyed Hossein Mousavian, whose remarks are reported in an interview published by The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, here. The Bulletin describes Mousavian as “a lecturer and research scholar at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, is the highest-ranking member of Iran’s political elite living in the United States”. Here is an excerpt of the Q+A:

    Q [Ali Vaez]:…Back in 2008, Iran addressed most of these allegations in a 117-page response to the IAEA. Wouldn’t publication of this response be a more constructive move than taking umbrage at the IAEA?

    Mousavian: The IAEA has, unfortunately, broken the rules of the game. Iran does not want to commit the same mistake. The issues between the agency and member states should remain confidential. Iran respects the rules and does not disclose its communications with the agency. Yet, the content of the IAEA reports on Iran are leaked to the media ahead of their distribution among the agency’s member states. This is highly unprofessional and against the statute of the agency. Such behavior is highly damaging to the credibility of the IAEA, as an impartial international body. It also clearly demonstrates that the information is dictated to the agency from somewhere else in order to make the case for ratcheting up pressure on Iran. The publication of these allegations was a significant step backward.

    Continue reading “IAEA passes "mild" resolution after its toughest report yet on Iran, UNGA denounces assassination plot”

IAEA Report on Iran –

The latest and much-anticipated IAEA report on Iran was distributed to members of the Board of Governors in Vienna — and almost immediately leaked to the press.

What does it say?

It can be read in full here: here.

It starts right out with this statement, rebuffing Iran’s efforts to negotiate or wheedle an arrangement [it’s been called “buying time”] to get a better deal, rather than a new [this would be the 7th] round of sanctions either through the UN Security Council, or enacted unilaterally by those states who feel the strongest about this matter:
“The Security Council has affirmed that the steps required by the Board of Governors in its resolutions are binding on Iran. The relevant provisions of the aforementioned Security Council resolutions were adopted under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, and are mandatory, in accordance with the terms of those resolutions”.

Here’s the immediate diplomatic deal — all of this is spelled right up front in the IAEA report”
“In a letter dated 26 May 2011, H.E. Dr Fereydoun Abbasi, Vice President of Iran and Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), informed the Director General that Iran would be prepared to receive relevant questions from the Agency on its nuclear activities after a declaration by the Agency that the work plan (INFCIRC/711) had been fully implemented and that the Agency would thereafter implement safeguards in Iran in a routine manner. In his reply of 3 June 2011, the Director General
informed Dr Abbasi that the Agency was neither in a position to make such a declaration, nor to conduct safeguards in Iran in a routine manner, in light of concerns about the existence in Iran of possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme. On 19 September 2011, the Director General met Dr Abbasi in Vienna, and discussed issues related to the implementation of Iran’s Safeguards Agreement and other relevant obligations. In a letter dated 30 September 2011, the Agency reiterated its invitation to Iran to reengage with the Agency on the outstanding issues related to possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme and the actions required of Iran to resolve those issues. In a letter dated 30 October 2011, Dr Abbasi referred to his previous discussions with the Director General and expressed the will of Iran ‘to remove ambiguities, if any‘, suggesting that the Deputy Director General for Safeguards (DDG-SG), should visit Iran for discussions. In his reply, dated 2 November 2011, the Director General indicated his preparedness to send the DDG-SG to ‘discuss the issues identified’ in his forthcoming report to the Board“…

The IAEA has expressed somewhat more concern than before — but they’re not hysterical with worry. They gave greater details about some of the allegations contained in earlier IAEA reports on Iran’s nuclear program up to 2003 [when the U.S. invaded neighboring Iraq], at which point Iran was believed to have largely stopped it. But, Iran has apparently maintained some kind of program to continue to monitor the results of its earlier research.

The report says “Since 2002, the Agency has become increasingly concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile, about which the Agency has regularly received new information”.

It also says that “While the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material at the nuclear facilities and LOFs [locations outside facilities where nuclear material is customarily used + a footnote tells us that “All of the LOFs are situated within hospitals”.] declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement, as Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation, including by not implementing its Additional Protocol, the Agency is unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities. The Agency has serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme. After assessing carefully and critically the extensive information available to it, the Agency finds the information to be, overall, credible. The information indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device. The information also indicates that prior to the end of 2003, these activities took place under a structured programme, and that some activities may still be ongoing. Given the concerns identified above, Iran is requested to engage substantively with the Agency
without delay for the purpose of providing clarifications regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme as identified in the Annex to this report.

__________________________________________________________________________________

The IAEA report complains that “The Agency is still awaiting a substantive response from Iran to Agency requests for further
information in relation to announcements made by Iran concerning the construction of ten new uranium enrichment facilities, the sites for five of which, according to Iran, have been decided, and the construction of one of which was to have begun by the end of the last Iranian year (20 March 2011) or the start of this Iranian year. In August 2011, Dr Abbasi was reported as having said that Iran did not need to build new enrichment facilities during the next two years.25 Iran has not provided information, as requested by the Agency in its letter of 18 August 2010, in connection with its announcement on 7 February 2010 that it possessed laser enrichment technology”.

It also complains that “Contrary to the relevant resolutions of the Board of Governors and the Security Council, Iran has not
suspended work on all heavy water related projects, including the construction of the heavy water moderated research reactor, the Iran Nuclear Research Reactor (IR-40 Reactor), which is subject to Agency safeguards”.

[A footnote tell us that: “The United Nations Security Council has adopted the following resolutions on Iran: 1696 (2006); 1737 (2006); 1747 (2007); 1803 (2008); 1835 (2008); and 1929 (2010)”.]

__________________________________________________________________________________

An important annex discusses “Possible Military Dimensions to Iran’s Nuclear Program” … which we will look at in another post.

Avner Cohen on Israel's policy of nuclear opacity – Part 2

“Israel initiated its nuclear weapon programme in the same period that the Manhattan Project came into being [i.e., even before statehood? At least, from the very proclamation of the State of Israel in May 1948], in an era when nuclear secrecy was the norm. Israel started its nuclear pursuit in a world that preceded the NPT—a world without clear international norms on nuclear proliferation—virtually in parallel to the nuclear pursuits of China and France. While China and France conducted nuclear tests to signal their crossing of the nuclear threshold—moving from the phase of near-total secrecy to functional secrecy—Israel took a different path. Why was this the case?

“Israel had a population of less than two million people when it initiated its nuclear programme and it lacked the status and political influence of China and France. Technically, Israel could have tested its first nuclear device sometime in late 1966, when it completed the research and development phase of its programme, but it chose not to for political reasons. Instead, Israel chose to cloak its nuclear weapon in secrecy and enforce a policy of nuclear opacity.

[Avner Cohen note: Technologically, Israel could have conducted a nuclear test that would have qualified it as an NPT nuclear weapon state … See also Rabinowitz, O., ‘The path to legitimate bomb’, Ha’aretz, 30 May 2010, here.]

{n.b. – The Non-Proliferation Treaty defines, in Article IX, nuclear-weapons states as those who “manufactured and exploded an nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive device prior to 1 January 1967“. Only five states did so, and — according to a consensus among them now — only these five can ever be recognized as “nuclear weapons states”, and they just happen to be the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council. The text of the treaty can be consulted here, or here. When India tested a nuclear weapon in May 1998 — followed in short order by Pakistan — India asserted that it, too, had become a nuclear weapons state, but that claim was publicly dismissed by the UK, with no contradiction from anyone, in the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. Pakistan openly conducted its nuclear tests, in a tit-for-tat move, to maintain parity with its neighbor and enemy but, after the treatment given to India’s claim, Pakistan never openly declared it was a nuclear weapons state. Neither India nor Pakistan ever joined the NPT because of what they believe is a discriminatory regime between “nuclear haves” and “nuclear have-nots”. Pakistan is, however, a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, and has said that all its nuclear facilities are under IAEA safeguards — and it is currently chairing the IAEA Board of Governors. North Korea, which was a nuclear weapons-state, announced and carried out a withdrawal from the treaty in 2003. In 2006, North Korea announced it has tested nuclear weapons, but has not declared itself a nuclear weapons state. Israel has never declared any nuclear-weapons testing.}

“Israeli leaders believed then, as they still do, that Israel’s national security requires a nuclear posture of opacity, not transparency. By 1969 the USA agreed that opacity was the only way under which Israel could keep its nuclear capabilities. By the 1970s, Israeli policymakers recognized that opacity would mean a long-term commitment to total nuclear secrecy at the expense of transparency. A great deal of attention was paid to designing a reliable command and control system, a system that would subject Israel’s nuclear assets to the tightest means of civilian–executive control without compromising the security requirements of nuclear opacity. The focus was on expediency and prudence. Very little attention and care, if any, was given to the nondemocratic nature of the commitment to nuclear opacity. Nobody pressed such questions; the public endorsed opacity without asking too many questions.

“The difficulty of assessing Israel’s nuclear situation through the lens of democratic control is twofold: conceptual and factual. On the conceptual side, there is the difficulty of defining what constitutes proper democratic control. If the question of democratic control is defined broadly in terms of open procedures, norms and measures of transparency, and by the level of the involvement of a democratic citizenry, there is no doubt that Israel’s conduct of opacity is at odds with democratic control. Defined in those terms, the commitment to opacity places the Israeli nuclear case at the non-democratic end of the comparative spectrum. However, if democratic control is conceptualized as something defined and measured by the existence of a plurality of institutions and procedures—some more visible and public than others—then the Israeli case is more complex and subtle. If this is the case, then opacity can still be consistent, at least in principle, with the legal requirements of due process. However, even within the well-defined parameters of opacity, there is still room for the introduction of reforms in the areas of democratic oversight and accountability.

“On the factual side, there is the difficulty in obtaining public information about the Israeli nuclear situation. Ultimately, it is this factual void, and not the conceptual difficulty, that creates suspicion. The real issue is not the intentions of the IAEC [Israel Atomic Energy Commission?] leadership or the commitment of the Knesset and the State Comptroller’s Office to the norms of oversight and accountability, but rather the fundamental policy of opacity with which they must comply. A commitment to nuclear opacity has inescapable consequences for the question of democratic control … The fundamental situation is that under the regime of nuclear opacity there is almost no space for open and public democratic control”.

Avner Cohen is a senior fellow at the James Martin Center for Non-proliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, and this is an excerpt of his chapter, Chapter 7, in the book, Governing The Bomb: Civilian Control and Democratic Accountability, edited by Hans Born, Bates Gill and Heiner Hanggi and published jointly by Oxford University Press and SIPRI (2010). Our earlier post on this chapter was posted yesterday here.

Ahmedinejad: "Human beings are connected to each other all around the world"

Today is the anniversary of the 1979 “Islamic Revolution” in Iran.

International tensions are running high about Iranian “intentions” as it continues its program to enrich uranium — for completely legal civilian purposes, Iranian officials continue to insist, while the U.S. says “prove it”.

[Ahmedinejad gives his answer below…]

A protracted Iranian negotiation is still continuing about whether or not it will agree to send some of its approximately 3.5 to 5 percent enriched uranium (used to operate nuclear reactors which produce energy) outside Iran for further enrichment up to nearly 20 percent level, which is apparently what is needed for medical purposes.

International nerves are beginning to crack, and the U.S. imposed further financial sanctions on Wednesday, while diplomats are speculating about (and apparently trying to find out) whether or not China is becoming less opposed to further UN Security Council measures.

China Hand (Peter Lee) wrote on his fascinating China Matters blog yesterday that “Iran may have hoped that China would step into the nuclear dispute on its side, perhaps by agreeing to serve as middleman for the fuel exchange. It looks like they’ll be disappointed. But today Beijing also sent the message that U.S.-Chinese relations would suffer another blow from an aggressive Western push on Iran coupled with a demand that China knuckle under and support sanctions. The lead editorial in Global Times–the international affairs organ of People’s Daily and therefore an indication of the attitude of the Chinese leadership– made the point that China resents being ‘taken hostage’ by either side in the Iran crisis. It sends some heat Iran’s way (though it will be clear from the remarks of China’s ex-ambassador to Iran quoted below, China believes that Iran is open to concessions), but the main object of criticism is the United States. It is clear that China has decided to take the whole American ‘you gotta sanction Iran’ approach as another episode (following the disastrous falling-out at Copenhagen) in which the United States is happy to employ wedge issues against China, not only to advance its immediate goals, but to isolate China and reduce its standing as a global power. If the United States continues to take a hard line on China joining Iran sanctions, instead of backing off and continuing negotiations, China will take it as a conscious, hostile act against China”. Further on in this post, China Hand reports that the People’s Daily interviewed China’s ex-ambassador to Iran, Hua Liming, and “Ambassador Hua told the paper that the main purpose of Iran’s declaration of its intention to purify its uranium to near 20% was to put pressure on the West and particularly the United States. Only a week before, Ahmedinejad had…stated that Iran was prepared to accept the UN nuclear fuel exchange agreement…indicating that Iran still hoped to reach an agreement with the IAEA, but that the exchange terms had to be beneficial to Iran. Previously, the IAEA proposal called for Iran to ship its fuel to Russia, where it would be refined to 20%. Afterwards, the fuel would be shipped to France and fabricated into fuel rods. This span of time would be 12 months. Iran clearly was worried about the 12-month limit and had expressed a hope that the time be reduced to four to five months. However, the Western countries refused. Under these circumstances, Iran adopted a relatively unyielding attitude … Ambassador Hua stated, ‘Unyielding’ only is one side of the coin…the other side, ‘Concessions’, still exists. Iran has already indicated its attitude that it will accept the IAEA plan. In general, Iran still hopes for nuclear negotiations and would not lightly close the door to negotiations”. This post can be read in full here.

China Hand explained in a previous post the day before that “According to Haaretz: Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday Iran was now prepared to send low-enriched uranium (LEU) abroad before getting reactor fuel back. Before, Tehran insisted on small swaps on its own soil. That would defeat the draft plan’s purpose of reducing Iran’s total LEU reserve below the quantity required to set off an atomic bomb, if it were refined to high purity. As noted below, China is perhaps the only major power that Iran could rely upon to conduct an offshore swap. Wonder if China will rise to the bait … During a February 9, 2009 press briefing, a spokesperson for Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs praised China’s ever more important role on the world stage. He also stated, according to Phoenix TV’s correspondent on the scene: If China was willing, Iran could consider conducting the nuclear fuel exchange through China. The nuclear fuel exchange refers to a proposed confidence-building deal between Iran and the West that has basically turned into a confidence-demolition deal. The IAEA proposed that Iran ship most of its declared low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Russia for enrichment to 20%; then the Russians would ship the fuel to France for fabrication into rods and return the rods to Iran so it could make medical isotopes in its Tehran Research Reactor. Theory was that Iran would get out of the uranium enrichment business and the world could find something else to worry about. However, U.S. engagement with Iran, like so many other nice things the Obama administration had planned, went off the tracks, thanks in part to the large anti-government demonstrations following last year’s dubious presidential election in Iran. Understandably, the Iranians worried that, if they sent their uranium overseas to Russia (which has started to side with the U.S. on Iran issues) and France, they might never get it back, and they reportedly proposed some deal that would involve incremental exchanges of enriched material for their LEU. The result was a lot of huffing and puffing from the West about Iranian bad faith and a concerted drive for new Iran sanctions. China is the only member of the P5 (Security Council + Germany) clearly resistant to new sanctions. The Iran offer can be seen as 1) an effort to get China involved on its side 2) a recognition that China is the one party that would reliably return their uranium. The offer didn’t come up in China’s MOFA Feb. 9 presser. On the Iran issue, the Chinese spokesperson stated: We hope and support that the concerned parties can achieve a unanimity of views on the IAEA’s draft agreement for supply of fuel to the Teheran Research Reactor. This would contribute to the favorable resolution of the Iran nuclear question. The Chinese, like the rest of the world, are probably waiting to see if the Iranian government can keep the lid on the demonstrations everybody’s hyping for February 11. If the Iranian government works its authoritarian magic on the demonstrators, I believe China will maintain its current position of negotiations and no sanctions. If the wheels come off and Iran heads for a period of serious political instability, China will simply keep its head down until the clear winner emerges”. This earlier posting can be read in full here.

In any case, a big celebration is underway in Tehran today.  Al-Jazeera International TV is now broadcasting live a speech from Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.

He began in a touching, reconciliatory way: “Human beings are connected to each other all around the world”.

Continue reading “Ahmedinejad: "Human beings are connected to each other all around the world"”

IAEA reports that Iran will enrich uranium to 20 percent level

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna has reported in a confidential one-page document that “Iran expects to produce its first batch of higher enriched uranium in a few days but its initial effort is modest, using only a small amount of feedstock and a fraction of its capacities”, according to a story from the Associated Press.  The IAEA document was based on onsite reports from its inspectors in Iran, who cited Iranian experts at the Natanz enrichment plant.

The AP story added that the IAEA document “was significant in being the first glimpse at Iran’s plan to enrich uranium to 20 percent that did not rely on statements from Iranian officials. Iran says it wants to enrich only up to that grade — substantially below the 90 percent plus level used in the fissile core of nuclear warheads — as a part of a plan to fuel its research reactor that provides medical isotopes to hundreds of thousands of Iranians undergoing cancer treatment. But the West says Tehran is not capable of turning the material into the fuel rods needed by the reactor. Instead it fears that Iran wants to enrich the uranium to make nuclear weapons.  Iran denies such aspirations. But its move is viewed with concern internationally because it would create material that could then be processed into weapons-grade uranium more quickly and with less effort than Iran’s present stockpile of 3.5 percent enriched uranium”.

The restricted-distribution IAEA document noted that ” ‘there is currently only one cascade … that is capable of enriching’ up to 20 percent …A cascade is 164 centrifuges hooked up in series that spin and re-spin uranium gas to the required enrichment level”.

According to the AP report, “Iran has over 8,000 centrifuges at Natanz, although not all are working. It has amassed about 1.8 tons of low-enriched uranium — more than enough for one warhead should it opt for that choice.  Iranian officials have said that they expect to produce 3 to 5 kilograms (up to 12 pounds) of 20-percent uranium a month. David Albright of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, said that at that rate, it would take Tehran about three years to produce enough for further enrichment into the 25 kilograms (55 pounds) of weapons-grade uranium needed for one warhead.  The IAEA document said the agency had asked for details on ‘the timetable for the production process (including the starting date and the expected duration of the campaign), along with other technical details’. Albright said that indicated that the Iranians were keeping silent on how long they would enrich to the higher grade and thus how much material they intended to produce”.

AP said that as a result of Iran’s decision to enrich to the 20 percent level, Washington has decided “to impose new sanctions on several affiliates of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps over their alleged involvement in producing and spreading weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. Treasury Department announced that it would freeze assets in U.S. jurisdictions of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Rostam Qasemi and four subsidiaries of a construction firm he commands, which was hit with U.S. sanctions in 2007. The sanctions expand existing U.S. unilateral penalties against elements of the Guard Corps, which Western intelligence believes is spearheading Iran’s nuclear and missile programs. Western powers blame Iran for rejecting an internationally endorsed plan to export its enriched uranium, enrich the material further and return it in the form of fuel rods for the reactor — and in broader terms for turning down other overtures meant to diminish concerns about its nuclear agenda. Iran, in turn, asserts it had no choice but to start enriching to higher levels because its suggested modifications to the plan were rejected.  That plan was welcomed internationally because it would have delayed Iran’s ability to make a nuclear weapon by shipping out about 70 percent of its low-enriched uranium stockpile. Tehran denies nuclear weapons ambitions, insisting it needs to enrich to create fuel for an envisioned nuclear reactor network”. This AP report can be read in full here.

AFP reported from Tehran reported that the Iranian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday “spurned a US offer to supply it with medical isotopes if it stops further enriching uranium as world powers warned the time for diplomacy was limited and the sanctions clock was ticking. The foreign ministry shunned the US offer as ‘not logical’, after State Department spokesman Philip Crowley floated the idea on Tuesday when Iran said it had begun enriching uranium to 20 percent for a Tehran research reactor. ‘Shutting down the reactor or stopping the production of medicine is not the solution’, foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters. ‘This proposal is not logical … The solution is that the other side cooperates to increase (the number of) these reactors… and meet the needs of patients’, he said … adding that Washington and other world powers had ‘better adopt a realistic approach instead of economic and political pressures to deprive us of our basic rights’.” This AFP report can is published here.

Tehran now says it will produce its own 20 percent enriched uranium

After failing to agree on terms for a proposed deal to send some of its nuclear fuel out of the country for enrichment to a higher level, Tehran announced on Sunday it would produce its own uranium enriched to a level of 20% for a reactor making medical isotopes.
Iranian officials said that the production would start in two days’ time, on Tuesday 9 February.

Ahmadinejad says Iran can agree to ship its uranium for futher enrichment outside

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced in an interview with state Iranian television that Iran is ready to send its uranium abroad for further enrichment.

But the terms he said Iran could accept are not exactly identical with the terms being offered by major powers who want Iran to stop enriching its own uranium in Iran.

The Associated Press’ George Jahn reported from Vienna that “The decision is a major shift in the Iranian position on the issue”, adding that Ahmadinejad said Iran will have ‘no problem’ giving the West its low-enriched uranium and taking it back several months later when it is enriched by 20 percent … ‘If we allow them to take it, there is no problem. We sign a contract to give 3.5 percent enriched uranium and receive 20 percent enriched one after four or five months’, Ahmadinejad said”.

The AP report observed that Ahmadinejad “appeared to be saying for the first time that Iran was willing to ship out its enriched uranium and wait for it to be returned in the form of fuel for its Tehran research reactor. But his time frame of four or five months appeared to fall short of the year that Western officials say it would take for Iran’s enriched fuel to be turned into fuel rods for the reactor … Ahmadinejad also did not address whether his country was ready to ship out most of its stockpile in one batch — another condition set by the six world powers endorsing the fuel swap. If Iran were to agree to export most of its enriched uranium in one shipment, it would delay its ability to make a nuclear weapon by stripping it of the material it needs to make the fissile core of a warhead. Experts believe it would need at least a year to replenish its stockpile at its present rate of uranium enrichment”.

However, AP noted that Ahmadinejad “dismissed concerns by what he called ‘colleagues’ that the West would not return the uranium, saying Iran would respond to that by continuing to produce its own enriched uranium. The plan for shipping the low enriched uranium abroad for treatment comes from the International Atomic Agency. It was first drawn up in early October in a landmark meeting in Geneva between Iran and the six world powers, and then refined later that month in Vienna talks among Iran, the U.S., Russia and France. The talks in Vienna came up with a draft proposal that would take 70 percent of Iran’s low-enriched uranium to reduce its stockpile of material that could be enriched to a higher level, and possibly be used to make nuclear weapons … That uranium would be returned about a year later as refined fuel rods, which can power reactors but cannot be readily turned into weapons-grade material”.

The AP added that “In Tuesday’s interview, Ahmadinejad repeated his wish to see the West build nuclear power plants in his country. ‘They want to cooperate? OK, we cooperate. We do not have any problem. Let them build 20 nuclear power plants. Is there a problem? Russia, France and the U.S., come and build’. Iran is building with Russia’s help its first nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr. The plant is scheduled to be inaugurated later this year”. This AP report is published here.

Meanwhile, two days earlier Iran announced that it is making further preparations to deal with the possibility of tightened sanctions. The official Iranian news agency IRNA reported that “Iran plans to build seven new oil and gas refineries in a bid to diminish its vulnerability to sanctions from foreign refineries”. An enormous Iranian refinery was destroyed almost 30 years ago, at the start of the Iran-Iraq war, which saw massive destruction of both countries’ infrastructure. The Iranian refining capability has never been rebuilt. Iran now relies on exporting its oil for refinement abroad — then re-importing its own oil after paying for the increased value. New sanctions being considered against Iran by the United States plan to target this dependence.

Tony Karon on Friday 5 Feb about Tues 2 Feb offer

Ahmadinejad had initially crowed over the deal brokered last October, but was forced to backpedal by a firestorm of criticism of the agreement from Iran’s entire, fractious political spectrum. Tehran’s demand for changes was rejected by the U.S. and its allies, who insisted that the package could not be renegotiated – and with Iran declining to accept its terms, Western powers began to press for new sanctions. Some of Iran’s key trade partners, however, demurred, a

Reports have suggested that Ahmadinejad’s latest statements may reflect progress in efforts to broker a plan for Japan to act as the guarantor that Iran would receive the processed reactor fuel – on a four- to five-month time frame, according to Ahmadinejad’s statement – in exchange for the uranium it ships out into Japanese custody. (Ahmadinejad’s new time frame appears to be a compromise between the original proposal, which envisaged a one-year lag between Iran exporting its uranium and receiving fuel rods, and Iran’s demand for a simultaneous exchange on its territory. But until Iran formally delivers a new proposal to the IAEA, the details of any new proposals will remain a matter of speculation.)

But there could be a simpler explanation for Ahmadinejad’s apparent desire to revive the reactor-fuel deal: the Tehran Research Reactor, which produces medical isotopes, will run out of fuel this year, and it was Iran’s attempts to buy new fuel that created the opening for the deal involving Iran sending its uranium abroad for reprocessing. Although Ahmadinejad likes to boast that if Iran can’t acquire such fuel abroad, it will create it at home, that would take months or years of work

Ahmadinejad also has to deal with suspicions among Iran’s leaders that the deal was a trick that would deprive Iran of most of its hard-won uranium stockpile. That, of course, is a stated goal of the Western powers in pursuing the deal, because it would remove from Iran three-quarters of a stockpile that could, hypothetically, be reprocessed to create materiel for a single nuclear bomb. Replenishing that amount, at current rates of output, would take Iran the best part of a year, during which time Western powers hope to persuade Iran to end uranium enrichment altogether. But Iran has no intention of ending enrichment: the nuclear program is strongly backed by all major political factions in Tehran, and most of the international community accepts Iran’s right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes

White house spokesman Bill Burton on 3 Feb

Iranian President Ahmadinejad said yesterday that Iran was in fact ready to go ahead with a deal that it had reached earlier but yet reneged on to allow its nuclear fuel to be processed abroad. Does the President see that as a serious offer or overture, and would the U.S. take advantage of that in some way? Or do they see it as being a way of diverting attention or diverting efforts towards a new round of sanctions?

MR. BURTON: Well, some of these reports have been pretty fragmentary in the sense that we haven’t seen the whole transcript and everything that he has said. But if those comments indicate some sort of change in position for Iran, then President Ahmadinejad should let the IAEA know.
Reading through some of the English language Iranian press day after reports on Ahmadinejad’s interview, a couple items stand out:
This piece that shows that Ahmadinejad’s interview was advertised as a major live address to the nation that was given some pre-billing. Seems unlikely it would have been set up that way without the Supreme Leader’s blessing, a Reuters analysis posits. (An Iran expert also suggested that Iran’s rocket launch today is the sort of “show of strength” that might happen before Iran would offer a deal, to try to project strength so they don’t look weak.)
Some interesting discussion here by Iran’s atomic energy chief Salehi about conversations Iran having on Tehran Research Reactor with various countries. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said today Iranians had spoken in Davos last weekend with French and Brazilian officials about the TRR deal and had some things clarified. Salehi suggests there have also been discussions with a nation in Asia, by which China’s Xinhua news agency seemed to think he meant Japan (ahem).
Key western power were quite united in their messaging last night and today that if Iran has a serious offer they should contact the IAEA.

Iran pledges to cooperate fully and immediately with IAEA – Obama says this must be within two weeks

After talks in Genthod, in the Geneva countryside today, the AP reported, “senior EU envoy Javier Solana said Iran had pledged to open its newly revealed uranium enrichment plant to International Atomic Energy Agency inspection soon … Solana said Iran had pledged to ‘cooperate fully and immediately with the IAEA’, and said he expected Tehran to invite agency inspectors looking for signs of covert nuclear weapons activity to visit ‘in the next couple of weeks’. At the United Nations, the Iranian Foreign Minister confirmed the plant would be opened to inspectors. ‘The letter from the IAEA to the Islamic Republic of Iran, in response to the information we have provided in this respect, and with regard to the new facilities that are under construction, indicate the fact that the agency has appreciated Iran’s move and dialogue for arranging a visit by the IAEA official is under way’, Manouchehr Mottaki said”. The AP report can be read in full here.

Then, for some reason, U.S. President Barack Obama decided to talk somewhat tough, according to a report published in the Jerusalem Post: “Now that Iran has agreed to open its newly disclosed nuclear enrichment facility to international inspectors, it ‘must grant unfettered access’ to those inspectors within two weeks, Obama said. ‘Talk is no substitute for action’, Obama said at the White House after talks ended earlier in the day in Switzerland. ‘Our patience is not unlimited’. Obama said that if Iran follows through with concrete steps ‘there is a path to a better relationship’ with the United States and the international community. He said that Iran’s promise during the talks to transfer some of its low-enriched uranium to another country for processing is an example of such a step. The uranium would be used in a medical-research reactor”. This JPost report can be read in full here.

Iran goes to Geneva Talks Two — to discuss buying enriched uranium abroad, a big concession

It looks like a major concession. Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad said his country will go to the second round of talks in Geneva with European and American diplomats — to discuss buying enriched uranium from a third party to run its nuclear reactor in Tehran.

Proposals have been made previously that Iran should buy all its enriched uranium abroad and import it — one option would have been through Russia. Iran has made counter-offers to produce — IN IRAN — and to sell abroad to other customers — enriched uranium produced under a consortium of regional or international countries.

But it has never previously offered to rely on an outside supplier.

Continue reading “Iran goes to Geneva Talks Two — to discuss buying enriched uranium abroad, a big concession”